MENA, Middle-East

The Kerry Plan For Israel And Palestine – Can It Work?

Israeli-Palestinian peace talksUS Secretary of State John Kerry’s intense shuttle diplomacy helped resume Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in July 2013 and were to take up to nine months, until April 29 this year. Now Kerry is now planning to present a US framework plan that will lay out what Washington considers the core concessions Israelis and Palestinians need to make for a fair, lasting deal.

The exact content of the US framework plan remains uncertain for peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). However it is preindicated that it will call for a phased Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria based on the 1949 lines, with “unprecedented” security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley. The framework plan includes Israeli withdrawal from disputed territories of West Bank but will not include certain settlement blocs, Israel will compensate the Arab side for this with Israeli territory. The plan will call for Palestine to have a capital in Arab East Jerusalem and to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. It will not include any right of return for Palestinian refugees into pre-1967 Israel.

Neither side is pleased with framework plan as such however both sides probably are poised to accept the forthcoming, non-binding agreement with sufficient reservations to make it meaningless, yet enabling Kerry to demonstrate a “successful diplomatic coup.”

Kerry’s plan

Israel lobby in USAUS Secretary of State John Kerry’s is now finalizing a framework for final status talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Kerry‘s plan will include following components according his speech to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on 24 January 2014:

  • an independent state for Palestinians wherever they may be”
  • security arrangements for Israel that leave it more secure, not less”
  • a just and agreed solution to the Palestinian refugee problem; an end to the conflict and all claims”
  • mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Palestinian people and the nation-state of the Jewish people”

Kerry gave specific attention to security, commenting, “the Israelis rightfully will not withdraw unless they know that the West Bank will not become a new Gaza.” There has been consultations with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders over a “security structure that meets the highest standards anywhere in the world” in the Jordan Valley, incorporating “a layered defence” system. Israel and the PA disagree over the necessity of Israeli troops to stay in the Jordan Valley in the event of an Israeli withdrawal.

Security

In a New York Times interview published on Sunday (Feb. 2nd 2014), Abbas presented his positions on security issues, saying that Israeli troops could remain in the territory of a Palestinian state for five years after the signing of a peace agreement. Abbas also said that an American-led NATO force could patrol a future Palestinian state indefinitely. Abbas said the NATO force could stay “for a long time, and wherever they want, not only on the eastern borders, but also on the western borders, everywhere. The third-party can stay. They can stay to reassure the Israelis, and to protect us.” “We will be demilitarized,” Abbas said. “Do you think we have any illusion that we can have any security if the Israelis do not feel they have security?” Abbas said the Palestinian state would not have its own army, but only a police force, meaning that the NATO force would be responsible for preventing weapons smuggling and terrorism. Abbas also suggested that Israeli settlements could be phased out over the course of a timetable similar to his five-year proposal for the Israeli military withdrawal.

Territory

“What Israel has won on the battlefield, it is determined not to yield at the [U.N. Security] Council table.” (David Ben-Gurion when threatened with U.N. Security Council sanctions)

New talks are possible due active and skilled shuttle diplomacy implemented by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who succeeded where both his predecessor Hillary Clinton and his superior, President Barack Obama, failed. Kerry has highlighted a 2002 offer by the 22-nation Arab League to make peace with Israel  in return for a Palestinian state broadly inside borders that existed before Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967.In May 2013, a high level Arab League delegation, after meeting with Kerry, agreed to change the language of the Arab Peace Initiative from its rigid demand for a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines to accepting “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps.80% of the settlers live in large blocs close to the Green Line. To connect those blocs up to Little Israel will need a land swap of about 6%. That is doable. This has been almost accepted in earlier talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. While 20% of the settlers live outside these green line blocs, these settlements will not be part of Israel proper, after a proposed deal so some 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel and this is doable.

Martin Indyk, the State Department’s lead envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, told the Jewish leaders on 30th Jan. 2014 that under the framework agreement about 75-80 percent of settlers would stay in what would become Israeli sovereign territory through land swaps; he added that it was his impression that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not averse to allowing settlers who want to remain as citizens of the Palestinian state. The sides, he said, will negotiate with the expectation of reaching a final deal by the end of 2014. (Source: The Times of Israel)

An official in the Israeli prime minister’s office said Sunday Binyamin Netanyahu believes Jewish settlers should have the option of staying in a future Palestinian state. In Davos, he told the World Economic Forum Saturday that he did not intend to uproot any Israelis in a peace deal. The prime minister sees no reason why a Palestinian state should be “ethnically cleansed.” An official in the Israeli prime minister’s office said Sunday Binyamin Netanyahu believes Jewish settlers should have the option of staying in a future Palestinian state. In Davos, he told the World Economic Forum Saturday that he did not intend to uproot any Israelis in a peace deal. The prime minister sees no reason a Palestinian state should be “ethnically cleansed.”

More about earlier negotiations in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace .

Israeli proposal for borders of West Bank according PM Olmert

For peace deal I consider that Israel needs to agree to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines with territorial swaps, when just 60 to 90 percent of settlers need to be included in the settlement blocs. The outcome of Kerry’s plan might well be close to that what PM Olmert offered to PA on 2008. Themap  of this earlier proposal can be downloaded also from my Document library.

BDS as thread?

In WEF/Davos Kerry commented that “for Israel there is an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it, there is talk of boycott and other kinds of things,” implying that such a campaign would gain traction if peace talks should fail. Netanyahu said that efforts to boycott Israel will “cause the Palestinians to become entrenched behind their obstinate positions and push peace farther away.” He added that, “no pressure will cause me to give up Israeli vital interests, first and foremost the security of Israeli citizens.” However, Labour MK Merav Michaeli blamed Netanyahu for the volatile rhetoric surrounding boycotts, saying “Netanyahu exposed us to the threat of sanctions … Israeli security is a fantasy if we don’t have a diplomatic treaty, and that includes our economic security.” (Source BICOM ) Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon later responded that a European boycott is preferable to rocket attacks on Ben-Gurion Airport.

I agree with Kerry, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is picking up speed. Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, has decided to sever its ties with Israel’s Bank Hapoalim, citing “legal and ethical conflicts” with the bank’s activities beyond the Green Line. A Bank Hapoalim statement said that “Denmark’s Danske Bank has no investments, of any kind, with Bank Hapoalim.” The Danish bank’s decision followed a similar decision by PGGM, the Netherlands’ largest pension fund management company, which on Jan 2014 decided to divest from Israel’s five largest banks, saying they either have branches in the West Bank or are involved in financing settlement construction. On the other hand Dutch pension fund ABP, one of the largest pension funds in the world, announced on Wednesday that after looking into the matter it sees no reason to end its relationship with three Israeli banks. Sweden’s Nordea Bank — the largest bank in Scandinavia – has asked Bank Leumi and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank for clarifications over their activities beyond the Green Line, in what banking experts in Israel defined as a potential pre-divestment move. According to a Jan. 19 report in the Financial Times, the ABP pension fund — the world’s third-largest — and two of Europe’s biggest investment firms, Scandinavian pension fund Nordea and Norway’s DNB Asset Management Group, are also reviewing their holdings in Israeli banks. Sources in the Israeli banking sector said Saturday that the recent moves were, for the most part, only declarative in nature, attempts to make political statements, and are unlikely to come to fruition. (Source Israel Hayom )

anti-BDS postcard

A new study that debunks the myth that Israel is a liability to Europe Added Value: Israel’s Strategic Worth to the European Union and its Member States, a joint report by The Henry Jackson Society and Friends of Israel Initiative, examines the extent to which Israel represents a strategic asset to the EU. The report looks at three key arenas: military, economic and scientific/technological. It finds that Europe is more secure, more innovative and more relevant on the world stage thanks to the tools Israel provides: from unmanned aerial vehicles to intelligence; from energy to pharmaceuticals; and from particle accelerators to high tech start-up. Among the report’s key findings there are e.g thatcontrary to news reports of EU-Israel disagreements – such as European Commission directives to label Israeli goods from the West Bank – by the most important measures, the EU’s relations with Israel are closer than at any time in the Union’s history. With nearly €30 billion in bilateral trade, the EU is Israel’s top source of imports and Israel is Europe’s leading trade partner in the Eastern Mediterranean. As the European economy continues to falter, EU exports to Israel are growing by roughly 5% a year. A world leader in high-tech innovation, Israel is vital in keeping Europe competitive in science and technological. (Full report can be downloaded from my Document Library.)

Israeli government effectively succumbed to a boycott of settlements in order to be eligible for the EU’s Horizon 2020 scientific cooperation agreement, the guiding blueprints for the EU’s scientific research. Also on Jan. 2014, the Israeli flag was hoisted for the first time to join the other 20 flags of the organization’s member states, after UNESCO officially recorded Israel’s accession as a new CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire/European Council for Nuclear Research) member state.

Central Bureau of Statistics’ data indicated that Israeli exports came to $92.5 billion in 2013, despite the global recession and slumping dollar exchange rates, compared to $60 billion in exports in 2010. Broken down by blocs, Europe received the largest share of Israel’s exports (32 percent), followed by Asia (25%) and the United States (21%).

Jewish state?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said thatIt would be “absurd” to expect Israel to recognize a nation state for the Palestinian people without reciprocal recognition of Israel as the nation state for the Jewish people. But issue was first raised already 2000 (by Tzipi Livni) and later at the 2007 Annapolis Conference. Today Livni might not view this recognition as a precondition to negotiations. However in my opinion when one state recognizes another it does not imply recognition of its political structure, for example U.S. in 1933 formally recognized the Soviet Union simply as state and not as a communist or Marxist state; and when most of the world’s democracies recognized Israel after its establishment, that too was as a state and nothing more.

From Israeli point of view the meaning of the term “Jewish state” is a state that cannot be flooded by foreigners to the point where it changes its demographic character, meaning there can be no “right of return” for the descendants of the 1948 refugees. So anyone who would recognize Israel as the Jewish state as part of a peace deal would announce the de facto end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and relinquish any future demands of Israel. From Palestinian side President Abbas stuck to his intransigence on the issue of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, saying it was “out of the question.” Abbas mentioned that Jordan and Egypt were not asked to do so when they signed peace agreements with Israel.

Jordan will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Kingdom’s foreign minister declared, expressing a latent Hashemite fear of Jordan becoming the de-facto Palestinian state. Jordan is concerned that defining Israel as a Jewish state may eventually lead to the forced deportation of Palestinians eastward across the Jordan river. According to some estimates, approximately half of Jordan’s population of 6.4 million does not hold citizenship. The massive number of non-citizens is comprised mostly of Palestinian refugees, but also war refugees from Iraq and Syria more recently. Over 3 million Jordanian residents are of Palestinian origin. Ever-mindful of a demographic takeover, Jordan has recently begun blocking the entry of Palestinian refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. (Source The Times of Israel )

Missing Gaza question?

In my opinion question about Gaza should have been solved at early stage during negotiations. Hamas still has its grip on Gaza even weakened after Sisi’s coup in Egypt. The economy of Hamas is weakening as Egypt has closed main part of over one thousand smuggling tunnels on Gaza border; before that Hamas administration got remarkable income from smuggling activities.

Rockets are still fired from there and conflict – fights between Egypt armed forces and Islamic militants and rocket fire from Sinai towards Eilat – has more and more moved to Sinai peninsula. For example February 01st, 2014 saw the pipeline that transports gas from Egypt to Jordan being subject of a blow up by militants. The attack is the third of its type in less than a month. The pipeline that connected Egypt to Jordan and Israel has been the target of various attacks ever since the start of the Egyptian revolution in 2011 for ending the Hosni Mubarak regime. These acts of rebellion led to severe disruptions in the flow of gas from Egypt to Jordan and to a complete halt of Egyptian natural gas supply to Israel. On the other hand Israel is less affected by the damage to the pipeline given that it has since discovered enough gas off its shores to keep the natural gas coming for decades to come. Israel’s Leviathan field contains around 19 Tcf of natural gas and is expected to come online sometime in 2017 while its 10 Tcf Tamar field started supplying gas in March 2013. (See more in Realpolitik: The Energy Triangle As Game Changer For The Eastern Mediterranean )

So a new reintegration strategy is needed instead of isolation, it should reconnect Gaza with the West Bank to lessen Hamas’ grip on Gaza. Israel and PA should encourage to re-establish trade links with Gaza strengthen the moderate middle class; a transit corridor between Gaza and West Bank would help to restore the social bonds and build national consciousness required for statehood. The Palestinians want territory within Israel to build a transport link that connects Gaza and the West Bank, and this could form part of an exchange deal. All this can help politically PA to be ready for Palestinian national elections.

Jerusalem – Two peoples, One Capital?

Jerusalem is one of the key challenge to a deal and at least three dimensions should be solved. The negotiators need to delineate the territorial borders, the political arrangements (for example on the Temple Mount), and then to begin work on the security arrangements that would address all the concerns regarding the territorial and political questions. It is anticipated that the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem will be under Palestinian control.

A solution whereby Arab neighbourhoods would come under Palestinian sovereignty and Jewish neighbourhoods would stay under Israeli sovereignty is needed. Israel will have to agree to a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem to the point where the Palestinians realize their goal of establishing a capital in the city. Palestinian side has criticized Kerry for offering the Palestinians a capital in the villages of Abu Dis and al-Ram, and not in Jerusalem. Previous negotiations have also proposed a special regime for the Old City.

Jerusalem deal according Olmert proposal

Bottom line

“I hope we reach a deal with the Palestinians, if not, we’ll manage.” (Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon )

“A peace deal will ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state as well as its social and economic prosperity. If Ya’alon does not understand this, he is not fit to continue in his position, and we would certainly be able to manage better without him.” (MK Nitzan Horowitz/Meretz)

The British Guardian newspaper quoted   a “Jerusalem-based source close to the negotiations” as saying that Indyk’s negotiating team has “only have maybe 10% chance of success” in its efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The Guardian also quoted a former American diplomat who worked on previous rounds of Israel-Palestinian peace talks as dismissing most members of the current American negotiating team as “pencil sharpeners” and “bag carriers.”

Inside Israeli government there is different views as well more or less rude critics against FM Kerry personally and about his peace plan. The outcome might even be that PM Netanyahu will remove Bayit Yehudi from the coalition and replace it with Labor, which is more amenable to a peace treaty. Labour Party leader Isaac Herzog has repeatedly stated that if the coalition lacks support for a peace agreement, Labour is prepared to act as a ‘safety net’ and pledge the support of its 15 Knesset members. However coalition crisis can occur more likely over religion and state than security.

As for the Palestinians, Palestinian Authority (PA) needs to agree to declare an end to the conflict, an end to all claims, and to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, PA needs to renounce the right of return of refugees and PA needs to agree to limits on Palestinian sovereignty in deference to Israeli security arrangements. The security arrangements need to provide an answer even in the scenario of a coup – or Hamas can win in elections too – in the Palestinian state so the key question is if Palestinian state has the will or the strength to deal with terrorism.

If negotiations again fail so from my perspective Israel could concentrate to talk solution with Egypt and Jordan (e.g. from base of Three-State-Solution) or with Arab League. And of course one option are unilateral solutions – Israel annexing Israeli populated areas officially to Israel and PA seeking recognition from international community as state. As any of these options in my opinion are worse than even worst mutual compromise and peace deal I hope all the best for further talks.

P.S:

The Facts Of Life In The Middle East”   by Avi Bell is a good description about Israeli-Palestinian dilemma – and Western hypocrisy – as follows:

The Facts Of Life In The Middle East” by Avi Bell

If Israel refuses to negotiate, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because it refuses to negotiate. If the Palestinians refuse to negotiate, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians can see negotiations with Israel are pointless.

If Israel makes preconditions to negotiations, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because it is trying to avoid negotiations. If the Palestinians make preconditions to negotiations, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians have to force Israel to be serious in the negotiations.

If Israel makes no offer of peace, that proves Israel is not interested in peace. If the Palestinians make no offer of peace, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians can see that making offers of peace with Israel are pointless.

If Israel makes an offer of peace and the Palestinians reject it, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because Israel is not willing to make the kind of offer the Palestinians would accept.

There are variations on this, e.g.,:

If Arabs make war, but offer to end it, that proves that Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because the Arabs offered peace. (Thomas Friedman/Arab “peace” initiative) If Israel makes war, but offers to end it, that proves that Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel made war. (Defensive Pillar, Lebanon II, etc.)

If Arabs attack, that proves Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel provoked the Arabs to attack. If Israel attacks, that proves Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel attacked.

If Palestinians carry out acts of terrorism, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because the Palestinians feel they have no choice but to carry out acts of terrorism. If Palestinians try to carry out acts of terrorism, but Israel foils them, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because Israel is carrying out anti-terror actions against the Palestinians even while there is no terrorism.

If Palestinians don’t try to carry out acts of terrorism, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because the Palestinians are good and innocent and Israel uses terrorism as an excuse to mistreat Palestinians.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks


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BalkanBlog, Balkans, Middle-East

Blogging & Web 2.0 As A Tool In The Media War by Ari Rusila

(Editors note: This article is a modified web-version of my article printed in A Flying Finn : Finnish Civil Society Actors in the Global Sphere Melasuo, Tuomo; Nissinen, Petter; Tomperi, Outi (ed.), 2013, published by Tampere Peace Research Institute; ISBN: 978-951-44-9191-7.)

Ari Rusila, MA SocSc, is a Finnish freelancer and project management expert who lives in Jyväskylä, Finland. He has worked mostly in the Barents region, the Murmansk region of Russia and Kosovo/Serbia (Balkans). His main blog, Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog, covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics.

 

Blogging statue

Introduction

Blogging is a part of the social media and Web 2.0 environment. While the first-stage web mainly included websites where people were limited to passive viewing of the content, the new-generation Web 2.0 creates highly interactive platforms that allow the creation of user-generated content, discussion and sharing in the virtual community. Besides blogging, the social media includes social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn…), microblogs (e.g. Twitter), wikis (wikipedia, wikimedia, wikileaks…), video sharing sites (e.g. Youtube), folksonomies (social bookmarking, tags) and other web applications (e.g. JavaScript). In conclusion, Web 2.0 has created a totally new level for communication between organizations, communities and individuals, far from the still-existing traditional and industrial media.

I have been blogging1 for over five years and have used some other social media applications for a few years. I have average computer and Internet skills, but programming is beyond my ability. So my experience of using social media is much the same as any ordinary citizen and not at any kind of expertise level. As my blog covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics – and regionally, the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions – I describe my experiences of the social media from that perspective. Another aspect should also be mentioned: I try to have blog articles with a message; in general, I take a position, describe a conflict from my perspective and give arguments for it. As my motto is “the other side of the story”, I never claim that my articles are neutral, or an academic description of different issues – the printed media and broadcasts can more or less pretend to have that kind of approach. In my opinion, when a reader compares my provocative or biased post with information collected from the mainstream media, he or she can get a more comprehensive picture of the related issues or events.

Web updated the media war

The traditional media has had a role in wars and international conflicts for at least a hundred years, e.g during the Armenian genocide it had some influence on the small humanitarian aid from the U.S. and afterwards influenced the trials against the perpetrators in Turkey. However, it was not until a half-century ago that it came clear that media hype can be far more effective than military combat success – as the Vietnam war amply demonstrated. It is said that Vietnam was the first conflict waged and won by the U.S. media.

The civil war in Yugoslavia lifted the media war to a more professional level when Croatian, Bosnian Muslim and Kosovo Albanian separatists employed PR firms to get U.S. public opinion and political leaders on their side, while the Serbs totally ignored the importance of the media. This proved to be a fatal Serb error in twentieth century hostilities, where public relations and media hype can be far more effective than military combat success. Barry Lituchu hit the nail on the head with these sentences2:

It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth. Of course, today with the appalling spectacle of the civil war in Yugoslavia filling our TV screens and newspapers, this old axiom has taken on an uglier, more sinister meaning. If four years ago we could say that the American public was totally uninformed about the conflict ready to unfold, today we can say with equal justification that Americans are doubly or triply misinformed, and dangerously so, about this tragic and completely unnecessary war.

Referring to the Yugoslav civil wars, Barry Lituchy describes the methods as follows3:

All public relations firms working for foreign governments must register with the Justice Department. I found in documents obtained from the Justice Department that while Croatia was contracted to pay Ruder Finn $16,000 a month and Bosnia was to pay $12,000 in 1992, payments in some later months were as high as $200,000, and total payments per year were ultimately in the millions of dollars. Moreover, Ruder Finn was not the only P.R. firm employed in Bosnia. Hill and Knowlton was also contracted early in the war. Waterman & Associates was employed by Croatia. Financial backing came from countries such as Saudi Arabia, which alone funneled nearly $1 billion to the Sarajevo regime from 1993 to 1996, according to the Washington Post, 2 February 1996. Ruder Finn was also contracted by the non-existent “Republic of Kosovo” for $5,000 a month, according to a Justice Department document dated 1 November 1992.

The outcome of this demonizing anti-Serb campaign was so effective that there was no market for stories by a journalist who discovered that the reported Serbian “rape camps” did not exist, or who included information about Muslim or Croat crimes against Serbs. Challenging the dominant interpretation in the major media became increasingly impossible.

Two decades ago the role of the average citizen with regard to printed or broadcast media was still passive; with social media the situation totally changed to the opposite – ordinary people can be creative through interactive media. The new trend in the present decade seems to be the ‘Internet revolution’. One of the first examples of this was way back in 2001 when the Filipinos famously overthrew their government with the help of text messaging. The latest example of the use of social media in the context of catastrophes or terrorist acts comes from the U.S., where, immediately after the bombs had exploded during the Boston marathon (Spring 2013), tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions, of social media users began to comb through still and video images from the explosion sites, like so many self-deputized CIA agents. These instant vigilantes not only shared images and theories on Reddit, Imgur, Tumbler and countless blogs but also fingered (innocent) suspects, most of them dark-skinned, as potential terrorists.

The use of social media in present day conflicts can be seen from a few examples I have studied or participated in in different roles (as a neutral observer, as writing articles from the grassroots level perspective or as an active participant in the virtual media war).

Case Moldova – Twitter revolution 4,5

After the Orange (Ukraine), Rose (Georgia) and Tulip (Kyrgyzstan) revolutions, the first attempt at a next-generation demonstration took place in Moldova after the 2009 parliamentary elections. Known now as “The Twitter Revolution” the protest was organized by two youth movements – Hyde Park and ThinkMoldova – using their generation’s social messaging network to gather 10,000-15,000 demonstrators on the streets in Moldova’s capital Chisinau at an event billed as “I am a not a Communist”, which included ransacking the presidential palace and parliament building.

As many as 50 per cent of the eligible Moldovan voters cast their votes for the Communist Party (PCRM). Thus the ruling party won a landslide victory, leaving the other three political parties that made it to parliament far behind. Three other parties managed to pass the 6 per cent threshold required to enter the legislature. All three are in favour of closer ties with the European Union, free-market policies and pursuing NATO membership. The Communists (PCRM) are pro-EU, anti-NATO and less market-friendly.

Election observers from the EU and OSCE accepted6 the voting as fair, though they expressed some concern about interference from the authorities. But the results were a deep disappointment in the capital. Expectation of change was in the air before the voting, but that did not happen.

On the other hand, the demonstration has been characterized in discussion forums (by government supporters perhaps?) as an act where

youth, paid by older internationally-acting manipulators with money, alcohol and drugs, seized a presidential office, planted a Romania’s flag on a president palace and set on fire country’s parliament, demanding inclusion as a province in Romania.”

Natalia Morar, one of the leaders of ThinkMoldova7, described the effort in her blog as “six people, 10 minutes for brainstorming and decision-making, several hours of disseminating information through networks, Facebook, blogs, SMSs and e-mails.” She said the protests organized under the slogan were organized online: “All the organization was through the Internet, and 15,000 people came on to the street.”

To create a demonstration via social media was easy, but to have a common view of its purpose and manage the crowd seems to have been problematic. That the demonstration turned violent was a surprise to the activists. Mr. Moscovici said the protests were never intended to turn in that direction. “The situation got beyond any expectations,” he said. “If it would have been planned in advance, they would have used Molotov cocktails or other bad stuff. Today they didn’t have any tools to fight back. The stones they got from the ground, from the pavement.” Ms. Morar of ThinkMoldova also distanced her organization from the violence, shifting the blame onto the opposition parties. What bothers her the most, she said, is the suggestion that she and her friends somehow contributed to the violence, which she watched on television. “Believe me, there is nothing at all enjoyable about it,” she said8.

ThinkMoldova gives an example of how a debate can be brought to the street level. One problem is manipulation by the media, etc, which is a common phenomenon in political actions, as well hijacking a demonstration for the purpose of one interest group. In the Moldova case, the two organizations behind the protest condemned the violence and were of the opinion that the opposition parties were behind these acts. The opposition parties deny this and of course it is possible that the Establishment orchestrated the hooligan part of the demonstration to weaken the NGOs. The truth – I don’t know.

The Moldovan experiment showed that Twitter has made some difference since the demonstrations in Ukraine 2004 and Belorussia 2006, which were mainly organized with SMS. It is practical and effective, but from my point of view not a sufficient method for democratic revolution. For protest certainly, for revolution maybe, sometime, somewhere.

Arab Streets: Social media gave good start and bad follow-up

The uprisings and revolutions on the Arab streets a couple of years ago clearly demonstrated the force of the social media in the early stages of those events. A sort of warm-up to the recent cyber war came with the release of a number of US diplomatic cables on Tunisia9by WikiLeaksin late November and early December 2010. The cables gave details about the “Family Mafia” led by the Tunisian President. A Lebanese news website that published the cables, Al-Akhbar, was blocked in Tunisia and attacked by hackers. The political campaign on the Internet escalated with Operation Tunisia10(an open letter to the media, a request for help from journalists, bloggers and hackers) in which activists targeted government sites with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The hackers also got their Open Letter onto the main page of the Government of Tunisia website. During critical days, the social media have been used to help get people out on the streets.

In Egypt the social media played a decisive role by bringing the protest onto the streets. Anonymous leaflets11How to Protest Intelligently – circulating in Cairo also provided practical and tactical advice for mass demonstrations, confronting riot police, and besieging and taking control of government offices. The leaflet asked recipients to redistribute it by email and photocopying, but not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which were being monitored by the security forces.

While the social media was so effective during the uprisings, its role became insignificant immediately after the change of regime. Traditional, better organized religious groups got an almost landslide victory over different “ad hoc” temporary action groups. It seems that with Tweet and FB it is difficult to create any deeper group identity, common vision or commitment.

Iran: Unsuccessful Green revolution, but successful cyber war

The “green revolution” in Tehran started after the elections in the summer of 2009. The Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations by opposition supporters. The most news coverage came from Tehran via English-speaking students – the bulk of the opposition demonstrators were drawn from the upper and middle-class students, business and professional classes.

From the post-election surveys it can be seen that the only demographic groups where the opposition candidate Mousavi was leading or competing with Ahmadinejad were the university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. This group had the language skills, equipment and skills for using the social media for their purpose. But relying on them as a source of information gives a totally false picture about the grassroots level in Iran as, according to surveys, only one-third of Iranians have access to the Internet. Commentators portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in the 2009 election, whereas in reality, 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad.

While distributing real-time tweets and pictures of the “revolution”, the Western media totally ignored and downplayed the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that Ahmadinejad was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while ignoring the provinces, small and medium sized cities and villages where Ahmadinejad had his mass base of support.12, 13

Later, when the core problem (information coming from English-speaking students and highest income class) of the social media as a source of information was clear, and to give a deeper view, I published the traditional information from the Iranian opposition and, especially, from a group named The Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority) – in Persian: سازمان فدائیان خلق ایران اکثریتSāzmān-e fedaiyān-e khalq-e Irān (aksariat) – which is the largest socialist party in Iran and advocates the overthrow of the Islamic regime there. The group is banned from open activity within the Islamic Republic, and works clandestinely inside Iran and openly abroad. I published their letter to EU leaders14 as such, and their other letter15 to President Obama related to a planned Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities as, in my opinion, their wise words reflected the grassroots attitude among the Iranian opposition

While social media like Twitter at a regional/local level can be a decisive factor by encouraging the masses to throw out an existing regime, one should remember that the stakes are on a different scale in a real cyber war. The best examples are the introduction of the Stuxnet computer virus into 30,000 computers in Iran’s nuclear reactors and the explosions in October 2009 in which 18 Iranian technicians were killed at a factory in the Zagros mountains that manufactured Shihab missiles.16

Israel: The most sophisticated use of social media as a tool of war

The old tradition (called also Pallywood) in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the use of some respected media, such as the BBC, to show “Israel’s aggression” and, at the same time, Palestinians as innocent civilian victims. During earlier conflicts it was usual to bring the dead – anyone who had died or been murdered for reasons of crime during these wars – out from the hospitals in front of the cameras as victims of “Israel’s aggression”. This kind of media war is still continuing on the Internet. The difference with the old times is that while it is easy to create and publish (mis)information, it is just as easy for the public to detect photo manipulations and other fabrications.

During the Israeli Pillar of Defence operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, an Arab news site called Alarab Net released a photo17 that shows a family who were allegedly ‘massacred’ in Gaza on its Facebook page on Sunday, 18 November 2012. The caption in Arabic roughly translates into English as “martyred massacred family in Gaza shortly before…” Thanks to Tazpit News Agency’s investigative work, it was found that the photo had originally been published on a news site called Moheet based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, one month earlier, on 9 October 2012. October 19. On the Moheet website, the photo18 was entitled “Syria killed 122 Friday…Assad Used Cluster Bombs.”

And here another example where the Alqassam Brigades published an image which was taken in during the Syrian civil war weeks ago and attempted to pass it off as a picture taken in Gaza during current conflict.

media manipulation in the middle east, Pallywood

Trevor Asserson in YNetNews19:

The only force in the Middle East that can beat the Israeli army is a bunch of ragged reporters. Had it not been for the fear of world opinion the Army would have rooted out Hamas and its rockets… World opinion matters because Israel’s natural friends are democracies. Politicians in democracies will follow public opinion. In today’s digital world, where people can communicate across the world in seconds and access information anonymously from their own homes, the internet is the new battlefield. The BBC, with its halo of ‘impartiality,’ is the world leader in dissimulation. The BBC aired dead Syrian children passed off as Palestinians; a ‘badly injured victim of Israeli bombing’ was filmed moments later walking around healthily. The BBC shrugged it off – “perhaps he just recovered quickly.”

A couple of years ago, the General Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) established a Cyber Defense Division in the C4I Directorate, which is responsible for protecting the IDF networks from hackers and infiltrations, to combat this new virtual frontier. While modern cyber warfare is more between skilled specialists, the information war in the social media is possible for anyone who has some kind of equipment and access to the web.

In my opinion, the most sophisticated use of social media as tool of war is the official blog of the Israel Defense Forces (IDFBlog)20. This is a source of information where one can find news from the field, including operational updates, photos and videos. Besides news, the IDF blog also includes wide background information and facts about related issues via different means (images, videos, FB discussions, interactive means, contacts …) and in many languages. The IDF are using Twitter as a means of making conflict, and their part in it, as transparent as possible. They are letting the world know exactly what they are doing, as well as why they are doing it. I think this is incredibly important as Israel is too easily cast in the role of “the bully” by the mainstream press abroad.

Besides blogging, the IDF also work with Facebook21, Youtube22, Twitter23 and Flickr24.

IDF leaflets during Gaza operation

As not all people have access to the social media, Israel has also used old-fashioned methods such as aircraft dropping leaflets in Gaza stating that the residents should “keep their distance from Hamas terror operatives”. There were similar warnings via Twitter. The reason for this kind of early warning was to minimize collateral damage (very bad for the public image) in any conflict.25

A very good example of how the IDF information unit works with the social media is its actions on 14th November 2012, when Operation Pillar of Defence was starting: in the morning, around 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, @IDFSpokesperson tweeted that “The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip, chief among them #Hamas & Islamic Jihad targets.” Minutes later they tweeted26, “The first target hit, minutes ago, was Ahmed Al-Jabari, head of the #Hamas military wing.” The tweet linked to a post on the IDF blog27 that explained: “The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure.”…“The IDF will continue to target sites that are used for carrying out terror attacks against the citizens of Israel while improving their daily security.” Soon after, a video of the IDF Pinpoint Strike on Ahmed Jabari28 hit YouTube, where it has accrued over 800,000 views so far (despite being blocked and reinstated by YouTube) 29. On the opposition’s side, the Alqassam Brigades30have been live-tweeting their attacks on Israel as well – e.g during Operation Pillar of Defence, tweeting the news of rockets being fired at different cities in Israel every few minutes.

Web 2.0 As a Tool – My conclusions

The Egyptian autocrats removed the Internet from Egypt; the Chinese autocrats removed Egypt from the Internet (an anonymous quote from a web forum)

The Web 2.0 revolution created a collective consciousness over the Internet, and, in addition, the social media also made it possible for large numbers of people to organize and, in certain cases create, attacks against the establishment – in the virtual or real sphere. The social media is different from the traditional/industrial media in many ways, such as quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy and permanence. A Web 2.0 site may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in the social media. This new Internet culture reflects the fact of, or is a process by which, the centre of gravity of the news cycle has shifted to the social media. The critical task is, of course, criticism of the sources, so that what seems like complete democratization of information and news reporting can lead to a tyranny of the mob, even erupting into “virtual” and perhaps even physical violence.

Today’s communication tools are providing new aspects for election campaigns and politics in general. One of them is that modern technology can inspire young voters. Another aspect is that protest is not necessarily channelled via voting but through street democracy.

One can claim that both of these aspects can include undemocratic elements because the majority of the population are not familiar with these tools and directing democracy with violence can gain more than a fair share of power. On the other hand, one can claim that the Establishment has such strong means with which to exercise power that normal elections are insignificant. My position is not clear, because the situation is different in every society.

Web 2.0 has been excellent tool with which to mobilize huge segments of the population with “Colour revolutions” or uprisings. However, the problems start after the demonstrations or even when the regime changes. After changing the regime or ousting a dictator, any further goals are rarely discussed and accepted by the mobilized demonstrators. Indeed, the real aims – labelled the promotion of democracy – can be imported abroad to serve foreign interests (like pro-American economic and foreign policies on Arab streets) or at least one leading domestic interest group. So, in my opinion, the criticism is the core question from this aspect.

I do not think the Western traditional mainstream media are so interested in in-depth critical analysis or investigations, which are a thread for advertising money or other publishers’ interests. The Internet is an excellent medium for alternative critical citizen journalism and even investigative journalism. Speaking about today’s whistle-blowers – the most famous being WikiLeaks – it may be the only medium where these kinds of actions are possible. One can, of course, find a lot of nonsense and what I call Facebook journalism on the Internet. I personally prefer more op-ed articles, alternative perspectives, etc, with good links to background information. In blogging I have changed my approach from daily commentaries to longer and not-so-frequent articles.

I think that at best, the social media can challenge the existing system, policy and initiatives by looking behind the picture from the mainstream media and finding the core interests in ongoing and coming (e.g. Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, military intervention in Syria, etc) interventions, conflicts and high-flown statements, and investigate how the actions are implementing the interests of different lobby groups. The blogosphere can tell what’s really happening and why. The blogosphere can liberate us and our thinking from the mainstream media box. It delivers a huge amount of information and raw material from different shareholders. The critical task is criticism of the sources, but even with this reservation it makes a real change as a virtual think tank – far more than the traditional media.

¤ ¤ ¤

Excerpt: Ari Rusila – My Blogosphere

My motivation for blogging originates from my experience of working in the Balkans. While working in the Balkans I saw a huge gap between the mainstream media and reality, and between high-flown ideas from Washington and Brussels from one side and the grassroots from the other. To change the situation I started to write e-mails and memorandums to policy-makers and comments to different forums – although the response was modest at best. Then I went to different web forums and started blogging, and got much more feedback. My motto is “The other side of the story”.

My main blog is Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog31, which covers issues relating to conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics, and regionally the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions. The content of the blog is more in-depth analysis or essays from my personal viewpoint on topics mentioned, not daily posts about current events. The main blog has visitors from more than 140 countries, mostly from North America.

There is a Finnish version of the main blog with a little different content: Ari Rusilan BalkanBlog32. I also launched a news portal, Ari Rusila’s Conflicts, where real-time news on diffferent topics was automatically generated from different sources – but no more, as the service provider ended this option. Then there is Themes of Ari Rusila33, which includes some minicourses for e-learning purposes. This site is still partly under construction. In addition to this, there is a more static website, Ari Rusila WebS34. I also participate in a number of community blogs with the same content as my main blog but with a different audience.

Blogosphere of Ari Rusila, Balkanblog, Web 2.0, blogging, social media

Highlights & Achievements 2008-

2013

2012

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Translations of my articles are spreading my message

  • Interviews in international printed and online media: Crimea Policy Dialogue Project (Ukraine)

  • Blog-Zug Hall of Fame (week 43/2012)

  • Blog-Zug Top (week 43/2012)

  • Google Search can give a good score depending how high each article is at any given time (my best is 603,000 hits, normal variation is 7,000 – 200,000)

  • Technorati authority changes according tro article popularity (my scores between 1 -150) h

2011

2010

  • Blog got 1st position among the most visited Babelblogs in Cafebabel.com (The European Magazine)

  • 4,782 views on main blog in one day

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Article for AC Policy Team/NATO Strategic Concept

  • Translations and forum activities disseminate views

2009

  • TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre, only two selected to participate from Finland

  • Quality Blogging Award in TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre

  • Intercultural Dialogue” Training workshop of Anna Lindh Foundation in Luxemburg for EuroMed bloggers. I was the only one selected from the Nordic countries

  • Platinium contributor to Atlantic-Community

2008

  • Article in New Kosova Report (Kosovo/Serbia)

  • Active participation in different forums and articles referred to

  • International Press Card

Other outcomes

  • Citations in a few academic works

  • Answering questions from researchers and students for their studies or publications

  • Contacted by a few writers and discussions of common issues

  • Helping aid or development workers with advice when they are going on missions

  • Giving official statements to, for example, asylum seekers

  • Contacted by a few moviemakers and giving background information and hints for documentary movies.

Notes:

1See “Excerpt: My Blogoshere

2 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

3 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

4 More in Twitter revolution – no coup d’etat but big drama anyway (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/twitter-revolution-) and

5 Twitter Revolution-Case Moldova (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/twitter-revolution-)

6 OSCE report (http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2009/04/37142_en.pdf )

7 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0)

8 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0 )

9 (http://213.251.145.96/origin/19_0.html)

10 (http://www.pdf-archive.com/2011/01/04/an-open-letter-to-all-media/an-open-letter-to-all-media.pdf)

11 (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%201_rev2-thumb-600×424-41204.jpg) and (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%204_rev-thumb-600×424-41213.jpg)

12 More in my articles IRAN – revolution postponed (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/iran-) and

13 Iran – Twitter – Revolution (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/iran-)

14 Support for Iranian Opposition (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/support-for-iranian-opposition/)

15 US Giving a “Yellow Light” to an Israeli Strike (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/us-giving-a-yellow-light-to-an-israeli-strike/)

16 More in my article Cyber war has became a tool between political and military options (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/cyber-war-has-became-a-tool-between-political-and-military-options/)

17 The “recycled” massacre, transplanted to Gaza. (http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-1.jpg)

18 The original massacre, in Syria. http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-21-422×486.jpg )

19 (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4315343,00.html)

20 (http://www.idfblog.com/ )

21 (http://www.facebook.com/idfonline )

22 (http://www.youtube.com/idfnadesk )

23 (http://www.twitter.com/idfspokesperson )

24 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline )

25 Minimizing Collateral Damage In Gaza Conflict (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/minimizing-collateral-damage-in-gaza-conflict/)

26 (http://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/268722815300169729 )

27 (http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/14/idf-begins-widespread-attack-on-terror-sites-in-the-gaza-strip/ )

28 (http://youtu.be/P6U2ZQ0EhN4 )

29 (http://allthingsd.com/20121115/youtube-blocks-israeli-hamas-assassination-video/ )

30 (http://twitter.com/AlqassamBrigade )

31 (http://arirusila.wordpress.com )

32 (http://arirusila.blogit.fi/ )

33 (http://arirusilathemes.wordpress.com/ )

34 (http://arirusila.webs.com/ )

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BalkanBlog, MENA, Middle-East

Resumption Of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

<img source="http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSLHPjqrrmKitfMzTIeUfoIZkim6sHG2DWE2cCzuaT2NXztmjpVNA" alt="Israel and Palestine map."</img>Some hope to break the Israeli-Palestinian vicious circle emerged when it was announced about resumption of peace talks . Dr. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, will travel to Washington next week to meet Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, for what is supposed to be direct negotiations after five years of stagnation. Both representatives participated formal negotiations in 2008 when the final agreement almost was reached.

New talks are possible due active and skilled shuttle diplomacy implemented by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who succeeded where both his predecessor Hillary Clinton and his superior, President Barack Obama, failed. However this is only start of the process and before final status talks there is need to agree over the foundations of the negotiations themselves, how to start, how and when to finish. A lot of obstacles is waiting, for example involvement of Hamas and Gaza to negotiations. Also from its part European Union tries to sabotage negotiations with its groping foreign policy and its foolish directives.

Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy

For years the Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused to negotiate unless some preconditions are accepted. The main demands before peace talks have been that the border of the future Palestinian state would be along lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War and that Israel halts all construction in West Bank settlements. Israel has refused, saying negotiations should resume without conditions.

On his sixth trip to the Middle East in five months as America’s top diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, continued his effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that floundered and collapsed in 2008. And on 19th July 2013 Kerry was able to announce that Israel and the Palestinians will meet end of July 2013 in Washington to finalize an agreement on relaunching peace negotiations for the first time in five years.

According to media reports, but not confirmed by Secretary Kerry, Israel has agreed a package of incentives for the Palestinians – including restraint in settlement building, the gradual release of prisoner serving long sentences for terror offenses, and economic projects in the West Bank – whilst the Palestinians are expected to suspend unilateral efforts to seek recognition in international bodies.

<img source="https://i1.wp.com/mfa.gov.il/mfa_Graphics/content/accumulator_default_img.jpg" alt="Israel government sign."</img>After Kerry’s announcement on the Resumption of the Diplomatic Process PM Netanyahu released the following statement: “With the resumption of the diplomatic process, we are faced with two main goals: Preventing the creation of a bi-national state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River that would endanger the future of the Jewish state and preventing the establishment of an additional Iranian-sponsored terrorist state on Israel’s borders, which would endanger us no less.”

The carrots

Kerry has highlighted a 2002 offer by the 22-nation Arab League to make peace with Israel in return for a Palestinian state broadly inside borders that existed before Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967. At the 2002 Arab League Initiative, which proposed full Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a series of conditions, including the return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel. However, in May this year, a high level Arab League delegation, after meeting with Kerry, agreed to change the language of the Arab Peace Initiative from its rigid demand for a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines to accepting “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps.

Related to settlements it has claimed that they kill the two-state solution but this from my perspective is not obstacle after the now revised Arab League Initiative. 80% of the settlers live in large blocs close to the Green Line. To connect those blocs up to Little Israel will require a land swap of about 6%. That is doable. This has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. While 20% of the settlers live outside these green line blocs, these settlements will not be part of Israel proper, after a proposed deal so some 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel and also this is doable.

Kerry has offered the Palestinians a package of economic incentives to restart the talks.According to the secret Kerry plan (not confirmed anywhere) as one of these concessions, Kerry wants Israel to permit the Palestinians to build in Jericho for their prospective state an international airport for direct civilian flights to and from America and Europe. Those flights would cross Israeli air space and be coordinated with Israeli flight control authorities. Kerry envisages the transformation of the entire Jericho region north of the Dead Sea and near the Jordanian border into a busy hub for galvanizing the economy of the future Palestinian state. He wants Israel to hand over to the Palestinians the Kalia region on the northern shore of the Dead Sea. Kibbutz Kalia, albeit part of sovereign Israel from its inception in 1948, is nonetheless one of the assets Kerry wants Israel to cede to the Palestinians. Israeli concessions would not end at the northern Dead Sea coast, according to the secret Kerry plan; it would be just the first in a series of land and sovereignty handover granted the Palestinians in trilateral negotiations among Israel, the Palestinians and the United States. The Palestinians would also be awarded by the process a three-year economic reconstruction program for boosting their Gross National Product by 50 percent and slashing unemployment from 21 to 8 percent.

The Olmert proposal

“Reaching an agreement is possible; it is realistic, but you need to want it and you need to pray that the leadership will want it.” (Ehud Olmert)

<img source="http://arirusila.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/olmertpage002.png" alt="Olmert proposal for Israeli-Palestinian future borders."</img>

The last time Israelis and Palestinians conducted formal final status talks was under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But his successor PM Netanyahu has formally rejected the proposals that Olmert made at the time to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

New negotiations are not starting from scratch, both Livni and Erekat have many times been looking the same almost agreed map according which Israel would annex 6.3% of the area of the West Bank, a move which would enable around 75% of the population of Jewish West Bank settlements to remain in their homes. In return for this, land would be transferred to the Palestinians equivalent to 5.8% of the area of the West Bank. In addition, a ‘safe passage’ route linking Hebron in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be established. Besides border issue also other core questions – such as future arrangements in Jerusalem and the refugee issue – were earlier almost solved. More about earlier negotiations in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace .

<img source="https://i0.wp.com/scm-l3.technorati.com/13/03/17/75487/Olmertpage003.png" alt="Olmert proposal for future borders of Jerusalem, map."</img>

EU trying to sabotage peace negotiations

While U.S. has implemented their active shuttle diplomacy in the front line the EU’s rearguard are trying to put obstacles for peace process. Just when peace diplomacy on the ground was at crucial point the EU published its directive which mandates that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.” The EU explained that the goal of the directive was to draw a solid line between the state of Israel and the “occupied territories,” especially over issues that concern EU cooperation.

In Jerusalem, officials said that the EU directive essentially determines that – given the absence of an agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinians – 100 percent of the territory in Judea and Samaria belong de facto to the Palestinians.

Trade with the EU in 2012 amounted to $36.6 billion. Israel imported $22.4 billion worth of goods from the EU that same year. Also the Palestinians were not so pleased as the Arab side is also going to be harmed by this EU directive; Palestinian laborers are going to lose their livelihoods as a result of the decision to exclude settlement enterprises from future cooperative agreements. A generous portion of the labor in Judea and Samaria is Palestinian and for example many joint Israeli-Palestinian agricultural projects situated in West Bank are funded by members of the EU and now in danger.

According to a report in Ma’ariv, Israel has threatened to pull out of the EU’s massive science and technology project, “Horizon 2020″. Israel is the only non-European full partner in the project, and is supposed to invest 600 million Euro (785 million US dollars) in the project over 7 years. Besides the financial hit the EU project would take as a result, the move would be a serious blow to the project’s prestige and success. Israel is a central partner in the projects that Horizon 2020 undertakes, and part of these project’s successes are dependent on Israeli human resources and research.

EU wishing to be included in the peace process should change their directive for example expressing that the territories of east Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights are in dispute and their fate will be determined through direct negotiations.

<img source="http://arirusila.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/unslogans.jpg?w=296&h=314" alt="UN slogans."</img>

These principles might describe EU too?

Gaza question

In my opinion question about Gaza should be solved at early stage during coming negotiations. Gaza’s isolation was imposed originally to delegitimize and undermine Hamas’ leadership. Palestinian Authority or better say Fatah was hoping to produce positive economic development in the West Bank which could lead Gazans to overturn Hamas rule.The opposite came true as Hamas’ control grew tighter. Though Israel and Egypt allow limited imports into Gaza, the economy of Gaza largely relies on illicit trade that flourishes via an alternative “tunnel economy.” Hamas enriches itself at the expense of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by collecting tolls from tunnel operators and import taxes on goods brought into Gaza. This second economy increases ordinary Gazans’ reliance on Hamas rule, which most would prefer to see end. Making peace deal only between Israel and the PA does not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ignoring Gaza further incentives Hamas to oppose peace with Israel and any deal its Palestinian adversaries conclude.

A new reintegration strategy is needed instead of isolation, it should reconnect Gaza with the West Bank to lessen Hamas’ grip on Gaza. To be effective at least following components should be included to the new strategy for Gaza:

1) Economic component encouraging Israel and the PA to reestablish trade links with Gaza. Israel should expand the amount of trade allowed from its territory, and also reopen trade from the West Bank. Gazans should be allowed to open an export corridor through Israel. Allowing goods to flow between Gaza and the West Bank will change Gaza’s economy away from illicit trade with Egypt and strengthen the moderate middle class

2) Social component encouraging Israel and the PA to reestablish the suspended transit corridor for Palestinians to travel between the West Bank and Gaza.Allowing Gazans to visit the West Bank and vice versa will help restore the social bonds and build national consciousness required for statehood.prepare Palestinian institutions for elections and to empower PA for peace deal..

3) Political component preparing the PA for Palestinian national elections.The Palestinians have not held national elections since 2006, and governing institutions required for statehood are losing legitimacy as a result.

Implementation of this new approach could be made with help of international advisory group composed of those countries already friendly with Hamas (Turkey, Qatar, and Egypt), plus countries (Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia) more likely to take into account the Fatah-dominated PA’s views. Sure this policy change poses risk, however the more certain danger is in perpetuating a status quo that benefits Hamas.

My conclusion

In Israel big part of population thinks that Israel as strong Jewish state can best defense their interests and hard line government to implement their wish. Palestinian leadership is defending rights of local Muslim population, refugees and vision of Palestine state. Hard line Palestine groups – with remarkable popular support – is implementing their vision with terrorist acts. In outside power centres especially in Anglo-Saxon world both Israeli and Palestinian interest groups are putting their pressure to western capitals. Many outsiders admit that both sides have good base for their claims.

Now I am more optimist than pessimist with this new round of talks. The status quo is too expensive situation both economically and politically for both Israel and Palestine. The deal would allow both parties to look forwards – the deal would release resources for economic development and for building capacities in society. There is also regional need to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict as other more serious conflicts are spreading in the (Great) Middle East

If negotiations however again fail so from my perspective Israel could concentrate to talk solution with Egypt and Jordan. I have propagated long for “three-state” approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable. (More in The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )


Some of my related articles:

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Uncategorized

Anti-Muslim Film Camouflaged Terrorist Campaign

Al-Qaeda Flag

Al-Qaeda Flag

Anti-Muslim Film Camouflaged Terrorist Campaign

On pääblogissani julkaistu uusin artikkeli koskien muslimivastaisen filmin aiheuttamia protesteja MENA alueella, filmin roolia terrorikampanjan savuverhona ja USAn vastausta erityisesti Libyan tapahtumiin.

Article (shorter version) first published as Anti-Muslim Film Camouflaged Terrorist Campaign on Technorati.

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Arab St., crisis management, MENA, Middle-East

Anti-Muslim Film Camouflaged Terrorist Campaign

Article (shorter version) first published as Anti-Muslim Film Camouflaged Terrorist Campaign on Technorati.

Muslim-protests, targeting symbols of US influence ranging from embassies and schools to fast food chains, have been spreading around the world after the showing of an anti-Muslim film – “Innocence of Muslims” – on Youtube. In my opinion, this substandard film portraying the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light, might however be just an excuse and cover up not only for riots and angry protests across the Muslim world, but also for a more serious terrorist campaign. This campaign might well put recent U.S. Foreign policy in question, as well the re-election of President Obama.

I have been watching this film on Youtube. The film – “Innocence of Muslims”, dubbed version – depicts Muhammad variously as a cartoon-ish lecher, fool and thug. I am not any kind of expert with movies, but for me this film was amateurish, silly, low-budget ($ 5 million – LOL), and a miserably acted unpleasant piece of trash without any meaningful content.

Anyway, Mr Nakoula (a Copt Christian, born in Egypt) from Los Angeles – if he is behind this art work – is more known as a small criminal than from being part of the movie industry. That said, understanding Muhammed’s status within Islam even this kind of rubbish really can offend many Muslims.

The al Qaeda flag has been raised in Benghazi, Tunis, Sinai, and Syria

From Morocco to Indonesia — and even in Sydney, Australia — the Muslim masses continued their rioting over the weekend. U.S. embassies in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen were once again under attack.

Al-Qaida’s most active branch in the Middle East has called for more attacks on U.S. embassies to “set the fires blazing,” seeking to co-opt outrage over the film, as waves of protests have swept 20 countries during this last week.

The most serious violence took place in Libya, where U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate compound in the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the revolution that last year overthrew Moammar Gadhafi. The exact circumstances of the ambassador’s death remain unclear. On Tuesday night a group of extremists attacked the U.. consulate building, setting it on fire, and killing U.S. diplomatic officer with three of his staff.

Earlier in June there was an attack on the UK ambassador to Libya, Dominic Asquith. Two British bodyguards were injured after a rocket was fired at Asquith’s convoy in Benghazi, hitting his security escort. There have been similar attacks in Benghazi on the Red Cross and the UN.

U.S. Mission in Tirana has issued some travel warnings for Albania like around Muslim world. However dismissing rumours to the contrary, Albania’s League of Imams said they had no plans to stage any public protests against the notorious film that has caused such unrest in the Islamic world.

Protests against the film intensified in Tunisia and Sudan, and spread in Lebanon, with three Tunisians, three Sudanese and one Lebanese killed as clashes between demonstrators and police ensued on Friday (14th Sept.2012). Protesters briefly stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Tunisia’s capital, tearing down the American flag and raising a flag with the Muslim profession of faith on it as part of the protests. Protesters also set fire to and looted an American school adjacent to the embassy compound and prevented firefighters from approaching it.

Amid the recent wave of riots dozens of Salafist Islamist gunmen stormed a Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) base in Al-Jora in the Sinai Peninsula, leaving four officers wounded in an exchange of gunfire, as well as causing heavy damage to the base. The attackers tore down the international peacekeeping force’s flags from the guard posts, raising black flags that symbolize the militant Islamic groups operating in Sinai. During the incident, the protesters managed to easily overtake the MFO security detail, jump over the barbed wire fence, enter the base and wreak havoc once inside, where they seized control of radio equipment and ammunition depots.



Despite all mentioned above one must notice that this is in no way a “mass movement” of reaction. It is in fact very small and is actually being hyped up by the world media to look far bigger than it really is.

Film Camouflaged Terrorist Campaig

Related to Benghazi Debkafile’s counter-terror sources report that far from being a spontaneous raid by angry Islamists, it was a professionally executed terrorist operation by a professional Al Qaeda assassination team, whose 20 members acted under the orders of their leader Ayman al Zawahri after special training. They were all Libyans, freed last year from prisons where they were serving sentences for terrorism passed during the late Muammar Qaddafi’s rule.  In a video tape released a few hours before the attack, Zawahri called on the faithful to take revenge on the United States for liquidating one of the organization’s top operatives, Libyan-born Abu Yahya al-Libi in June by a US drone in northwestern Pakistan.

The protest in Benghazi exposed the alarming presence of al-Qaeda elements in Libya. When the “Arab Spring” erupted in Libya last year, Muammar Gaddafi warned that al-Qaeda would take Libya over if he is overthrown. US intelligence agencies were also aware of the presence of al-Qaeda elements in Libya and knew of their training in Afghanistan. The timing of the attack, a day after the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, was not coincidental.

U.S. Response

President Obama does not want to entangle his country in any foreign conflicts. It seems he would prefer to have the U.S. stay in the background. Quite descriptive, if not surprising, was that one of the first responses to the Benghazi events by the White House was to attack the Romney campaign and his remarks rather than to first and foremost condemn and address the murders of American citizens.

Rose Corona hits the nail in the head in her column in Forbes. A Quote:

This is not the first time the Obama administrations or the media’s response has been to focus on the distraction rather than the real issue. I liken it to the argument that they prefer to focus on a particular style of dishwasher for the kitchen or color of wallpaper in living room while all the time ignoring that fact that the house is on fire. The dishwasher and wallpaper does not matter if the house burns to the ground.

Obama gambled with the Middle East during his first term. He not only promised successful dialogue with Iran and, of course, to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he also assured us that he would be able to reconcile cultures.

On the other hand the Islamic view could be that Stevens previously was Obama’s representative to America’s puppet Libyan National Transition Council. It helped Washington and NATO partners ravage the country mercilessly. They’re responsible for killing tens of thousands of civilians, causing widespread destruction, leaving countless numbers homeless, displaced, and impoverished, as well as ending cherished social programs Gaddafi instituted.

Despite reports about a planned attack the White House and its minions continue to try to use this anti-Muhammed YouTube video as the “reason” for what is happening. This was not a terror attack carried out by a few people; it was initiated by thousands who wanted to convey the message that they do not want the Americans around. This is how they are trying to get rid of the Americans, who helped them rise to power.

Just as former President Jimmy Carter’s single term ended with the abduction of American diplomats in Tehran, Obama is now facing the collapse of his policy of support for the Islamic groups. He also has to deal with questions surrounding the fiasco in Benghazi.


Some of my articles related to Arab Street:

Israeli Vs Palestine Refugees – In, Out and No Return ,
US Giving a “Yellow Light” to an Israeli Strike
Days of Rage on the Arab street
Support for Iranian Opposition
Egypt at crossroads – theocrazy, democracy or something between
PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace
Cyber war has became a tool between political and military options
Is Yemen the next target for the War on Terror?
Saudi-Israeli cooperation for attacking Iran
Fragments of the Middle East peace efforts
The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict

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BalkanBlog, crisis management, MENA, Middle-East

Israeli vs Palestine Refugees – In, Out and No Return

One element by solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the question of refugees or better their right to return. When the “refugee issue” is discussed within the context of the Middle East, people invariably refer to Palestinian refugees, not Jews displaced from Arab countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel has launched a new international campaign entitled “I am a refugee”. The purpose of the campaign is to increase international awareness of a little-known refugee group – Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Before 1948 nearly one million Jews lived in the MENA region (Middle-East & North Africa) outside of the sc Brittish Palestinian mandate; after a half decade only few thousand were left. A documentary movie ”The Forgotten Refugees” gives some background to these Jewish communities in the Great Middle East.

Wider context of the Refugee question in MENA

Thriving, prosperous Jewish communities existed in the Middle East and North Africa ( aka MENA region) a thousand years before the rise of Islam and more than 2500 years before the birth of the modern Arab nations. These communities, which extended from Iraq in the east to Morocco in the west, enjoyed a lively fabric of life and were influential in the local economies. Until the 10th century C.E., 90% of the world’s Jews lived in regions now known as Arab countries.

On Nov. 29, 1947, the UN voted to partition then British-Mandate Palestine into two states: one Jewish, one Arab. Two states for two peoples. The Jewish population accepted that plan and declared a new state in its ancient homeland but the Arab inhabitants rejected the plan and launched a war of annihilation against the new Jewish state, joined by the armies of five Arab members of the UN. As a result of the war, there were Arabs who became refugees. Also following the declaration of the Jewish state antisemitism and anti-Jewish riots broke out in the Middle East and North Africa ( aka MENA region) and many Jews were driven from their homes – between 1948 and 1952, 856,000 Jews from Arab countries became refugees.

Every year the Palestinians are commemorating sc Nakba (catastrophe) Day, on which they remember the disaster that befell them in 1948, when they lost their war against Zionism and two-thirds of them were displaced from their homes, becoming refugees. While it is perfectly natural for the Palestinians to commemorate their national tragedy, the date they have chosen carries a clear political-ideological message, and it is not one that will encourage would-be Middle East peacemakers.

Besides humanitarian aspect I could mention an economic one too. In a recent conference “Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries” Dr. Stanley Urman, the executive director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, noted that Jewish refugees lost property worth $700 million (around $6 billion in today’s terms ), while Palestinian refugees lost property worth about $450 million (around $3.9 billion in today’s terms ). Since 1950, he said, Palestinian refugees have received $13.7 billion in U.N. funding, whereas Jewish refugees have received just $35,000. (Source Haaretz )

UNRWA – the never-ending mission

At least two aspects explain why there are still refugees after more than six decades:

  • First is Arab leaders’ recalcitrance to accept their brethren and refusing to absorb the Palestinian refugees.
  • Second the United Nations created a separate agency – UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – with unique principles and criteria.

According UNRWA criteria the refugee status is given not only to the original refugees whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost their homes as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict AND their descendants in the male line. So it isn’t just the first generation that is entitled to this aid, as is the norm for all other refugees the United Nations helps, now the fifth generation is also entitled.

Originally UNRWA was established as a temporary agency. One motivation to agency’s refugee definations might be economic aspect. An article ”Palestinians Refugees Forever” in Haaretz gives following background:

UNRWA states that the Palestinians are occupied – indefinitely. UNRWA has financial and political interests in maintaining this fiction: as long as the Palestinians are refugees, UNRWA is in business. Of the 30,000 people that UNRWA employs, the vast majority are Palestinian: UNRWA is the largest single employer of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Contrast this to the UN High Commission for Refugees, that only employs 5-6,000 people globally, and which focuses far more clearly on resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees and building new lives, and not on maintaining services that prop up the status quo. (Source Haaretz )

Refugees without agency

Millions of Germans who had lived in the Sudetenland and were kicked out at the end of WWII (3 years before 1948). They were not allowed to return and they are no longer refugees because Germany absorbed them. Finland settled some 10 % of its population from territories occupied by the Soviet Union, which from its side transferred new population to new regions. Around 45,000 Hungarians were deported from Czechoslovakia to Hungary, while around 72,000 Slovaks transferred from Hungary to Czechoslovakia, and they are no longer refugees either. Hundreds of thousands of Cypriots who were kicked out of their homes were also not allowed to go back to them, and they are no longer refugees because their fellow nationals on the other side of the island absorbed them.

One aspect with “right of return” should now be highlighted: A recent ruling by the European court of human rights declared that due to the time that had elapsed, Greek refugees expelled from northern Cyprus in 1974 would not be allowed to return to their homes. Now while, tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world not the Palestinian refugees – defined by unique UNRWA criteria – the discussion of ”right to return” has so far been quite one-sided.

Israeli point of view

Earlier Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon published his view in informative video ”The Truth About the Refugees” explaining the historical facts relating to the issue of refugees in the Israeli Palestinian conflict.  This video also highlights the issue of the Jewish refugees who were forced out of their homes in the Arab world, and were subsequently absorbed by the State of Israel.

Organisation ”Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa ( JIMENA ) has completed their first comprehensive country specific websites about refugee issue:

My Conclusion

Unsolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict squanders resources which in more peaceful circumstances could be used for capacity building of civil societies. Keeping refugee question and land dispute on the top of their agenda Palestinian Authorities favor temporary solutions and relief instead of building more permanent institutions. On Israeli side the defense and security takes more and more resources, e.g one Iron Dome missile to drop one Quassam rocket costs nearly $ 100.000. Then there is also a question about effectiveness of foreign aid, but that is the other story outside the issue of this article (see e.g Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks).

In my opinion the Palestinian refugees should be rehabilitated in their place of residence just as the Jewish refugees were rehabilitated in theirs – Israel. There should be an immediate discontinuation of the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee issue. The rehabilitation process implemented this way would minimize the demand for the “right of return” during peace talks so one problem less in agenda.  Sure few years ago there was a preliminary agreement about Palestine returns in Israel but the number was rather symbolic ( 5.000 ).  In any case the insistence of some Palestinian refugees to be given a right of return will be resolved by their immigration into the future Palestinian state that will be established through a peace agreement.

In my opinion the refugee problem described above has some similarities with situation in Serbia after Balkan wars. In Serbia still lives over 200.000 refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons). Like return of Jews back to Arab countries, like return of Palestinians to Israel or West-Bank as well return of Serbs back to Croatia or Kosovo the numbers of returns are insignificant e.g due security reasons. From my point of view to solve refugee/IDP problem the rehabilitation process in the place of residence is good alternative and international aid should be redirected e.g towards effective housing programs instead of keeping alive unrealistic dreams about going back to square one.

 

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Some of my related articles:

 

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Out of Topic: Epilogue Lite

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lähi-itä

Syyriassakin hallinnon ote lipeämässä

Libyan konfliktin jämähtyminen paikoilleen on ymmärrettävää länsimaiden jälleen unohtaessa, että sekä tavoite että strategia olisi hyvä miettiä ennen operaatiota. Kun tämä on yhdistetty johtajuuden puutteeseen on Suomen pidättyminen osallistumisesta mokomaan sitäkin parempi ratkaisu. Uusia haasteita on kuitenkin kehkeytymässä.

Samanaikaisesti hieman idempää alkaa näkyä merkkejä siitä ettei Syyria sittenkään ehkä ole niin rautaisessa Assadin otteessa kuin ehkä kuvitellaan. Viime päivien aikana on ilmennyt Syyrian eliitin jo evakuoivan perheitään muihin maihin ja jopa Assadin valmistelevan pakoaan Saudi-Arabiaan. Ilmeisesti hän voi laskea tukijoihinsa vain n. 10.000 vahvuisen erikoisjoukkonsa ja tämä ei riittäne mielenilmausten tukahduttamiseen.

Naapurissa Libanonissa Hizbollahin arvellaan toteuttavan näyttäviä iskuja länsikohteita vastaan lähipäivinä.  Maan sisäinen hallinto on aiempaakin enemmän sekaisin kun kahta päälinjaa tukee kumpaakin tusinan verran pienpuolueita.

Varsinkin vallanvaihto Syyriassa tekee valtapoliittisesta kuviosta lähi-idässä haasteellisen erityisesti länsimaiden positioihin suhteessa Iraniin ja Israel-Palestiina konfliktiin. Haaste saattaa olla Suomessakin toimitusministeriön ulkoasia-agendan kärjessä.

Eräitä MENA -aluetta käsittäviä kirjoituksiani:

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